You may have heard the phrase “Web 2.0.” It refers to how we are now in the second phase of the role that the Internet plays in our lives.
Originally the Web was a source of information and entertainment, written and produced by “professionals.”
In recent years, Internet users have themselves moved onto the Web – actively creating content, blogs, and new software and tools. You could say that the Internet has exploded, and is continuing to explode.
So Health 2.0, then, involves these new ways of using the Web in order to share and make use of health care information. As with Web 2.0, oftentimes this means promoting a very individualized and personal online experience.
Creating websites as a way for folks to share health care info is nothing new. One online support group for neurology patients began in 1993, before most of us even knew the Internet existed.
What role does Health 2.0 play in our health care?
- From the beginning, Doctors were concerned about the quality of medical information the average person could get to. They worried that patients would misuse, misinterpret or generally be misinformed by what they found online. Since then people are more aware of the need to be cautious, and the sites themselves have also gotten better – more accurate and trustworthy.
- Digitized “electronic health records” or “personalized health records” are becoming the way that your records are kept. More and more of that information is going to be transmitted and read online. All users need to be aware of the privacy safeguards a particular site or provider will be offering. Even just online support groups are a risk: the internet is a permanent record in many ways – never divulge information you wouldn’t want the world to know, even if you think you are in a “safe space” or have used a different name.
- As health care costs are growing and are a growing concern for all Americans, and as the number of people with insurance declines, many are looking to the Web as a cheaper way to get health advice and even treatment options. Does that sore throat and fever mean I should see a doctor? How serious is this rash? What’s the best way to treat an injury? Now sites like FreeMD let you submit your questions to a “real” doctor through an interactive video, and WebMD has an interactive feature where you can diagnose your own symptoms. Beats missing work and a $30 co-pay, waiting to get in to see your doctor, or a long wait at the free clinic!
The more the Internet becomes a reliable source of health care information and guidance, the more those without Internet access are left behind. See our blog post Country Living for an understanding of the need for everyone to be able to get on the Internet.
Brings a whole new meaning to the term “digital divide.”